Robin Quinn | The Man Who Broke The Bank

The Man Who Broke The Bank - Cover Image

THE MAN WHO BROKE THE BANK AT MONTE CARLO

About the book

Essential reading for lovers of Victorian true-crime stories. The book takes readers on a roller-coaster ride through Britain, France and Monaco in the company of one of the greatest swindlers of the era as he pulls off one breath-taking coup after another. His amazing win at Monte Carlo is just one of many highlights in this true story, which reaches a climax when Wells is pursued across Europe in one of the biggest man-hunts of all time.

The Man Who Broke The Bank
Hardcover; e-book
Published:
2016
Publisher:
ISBN:
9780750961776

Order now: Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmiths, iTunes.
Read excerpts on Google Books.

Now available as an audio book on CDs
And as an audio download

audiobook
Newspaper clipping: MONTE CARLO WELLS was for the time the most famous man in Europe.  He eclipsed every other social notable.  His wealth was supposed to be immense, and everything he touched turned into gold.  He became the theme of every music hall and pantomime ditty.  No comedy of the day was complete without a reference to the man who broke the bank. [AUCKLAND STAR, 31 MARCH 1906]

FACTFILE: Charles Deville Wells aka ‘Monte Carlo Wells’ aka ‘The Man Who Broke The Bank At Monte Carlo’

Fact #1Fact #2Fact #3Fact #4
In 1891, during two visits to the Casino at Monte Carlo, Charles Deville Wells broke the bank several times and won £60,000 (equivalent to £6 million today). The present owners of the Casino admit that his success has never been satisfactorily explained. In ‘The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo’, author Robin Quinn sets out the possibilities .
The Casino at Monte Carlo
To ‘break the bank’ means to clean out the cash reserve of the gambling table in question. Each table was stocked with 100,000 francs in cash at the start of each day. If a player ‘broke the bank’, that table was temporarily closed and was covered with a black cloth.
The steam yacht Palais Royal, formerly Tycho Brahe
Soon after he broke the bank, Charles Deville Wells bought an old cargo ship, the Tycho Brahe, and converted her into a luxury yacht, re-naming her Palais Royal. At 291 feet in length, the vessel was one of the largest pleasure craft in the world. Even today, she would be in the top-50 of yachts in terms of size.
After Charles Wells broke the bank in 1891, his exploits inspired composer Fred Gilbert to write a song entitled – naturally – The Man Who broke the Bank at Monte Carlo. This became the hit song of a generation and remained popular for well over half a century. The singer most closely associated with it, Charles Coborn, made at least five separate records featuring the tune, and once said he had performed it on stage a quarter of a million times.

Blog: The Man Who Broke The Bank

  • “Meet me at your bank – and bring your cheque-book”
    Drummonds Bank, London
    Drummonds Bank, London

    On a trip to London last week I made a detour via Trafalgar Square to take these photos of Drummonds Bank.  Why?

    Because the bank was already in existence on this site when Charles Deville Wells was active in London during the 1890s.  Wells, known as a “gambler and fraudster extraordinaire”, persuaded one of his victims – the Honourable William Trench – to back him in a phony patent scheme.  After handing over the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of pounds, Trench started to have doubts about the project, and when Wells asked for a further advance of money the young aristocrat hesitated.

    Finally they agreed to meet at Drummonds Bank, where many wealthy people, including members of the royal family had accounts.  This was also where Trench banked.

    Trench was persuaded to hand over a further large sum of money, but demanded that Wells provide security.  Wells offered two of his steam yachts and a smaller vessel as collateral, claiming that they were worth a substantial sum.

    Predictably, Trench later discovered that the two yachts were virtually worthless, while the smaller craft had disappeared.  In company with Wells’ many other victims, Trench became resigned to the fact that he would never regain any of the money he had put into the scheme.  Twenty years later, however, in an extraordinary twist of fate, the situation changed dramatically …

    A gleaming brass plate outside Drummonds Bank, Trafalgar Square. This almost turned out to be a selfie, but I thought I'd spare you that!
    A gleaming brass plate outside Drummonds Bank, Trafalgar Square. This almost turned out to be a selfie, but I thought I’d spare you that!

     

  • A Family Connection
    lee radziwill
    Lee Radziwill, younger sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

    I’m currently enjoying A Tale of Two Sisters on the Yesterday Channel.

    To quote the listing,

    This brand new and exclusive three-part series delves into the relationships of six prominent women from world history – sisters by birth, all enjoying very different relationships with each other. The series explores the fascinating but sometimes fractious lives of aviation hero Amelia Earhart, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and the infamous Mitford sisters.

    I’m especially keen to watch the third instalment when I’ll be able to learn more about Lee Radziwill, sister of the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.  She was married in 1959 to Stanislaw Radziwill (1914 – 1976).

    My interest in the Radziwills stems from the fact that Louise Blanc – daughter of François Blanc, the former owner of the Casino at Monte Carlo – married Prince Constantin Radziwill in 1876.

    It seemed evident that Stanislaw and Constantin were from the same family, but what exactly was the connection?  I set myself the task of finding the link.  Using a number of sources online, including Wikipedia, geni.com, and thepeerage.com, I finally had to reach back as far as the 16th century to discover that both men were indeed descended from a common ancestor – Aleksander Ludwik Radziwill (1594 – 1654).

     

    Aleksander Ludwik Radziwill

  • The Man who Broke the Bank – new audio edition
    The Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo - Audiobook (8 audio CDs or 2 MP3 CDs)
    The Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo – Audiobook (8 audio CDs or 2 MP3 CDs, or download)

    A new audio edition of The Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo has been released by Oakhill Publishing Ltd.  This is a complete and unabridged version of the book, with a playing time of around 9 hours 40 minutes.  The reader is award-winning actor Jonathan Keeble, who has recorded over 400 audio books and is the voice of the disreputable Owen in long-running radio drama, The Archers.

    The audio book is available as a download; as 2 MP3 CDs; or as 8 audio CDs.  For further info, please click here: http://www.oakhillpublishing.com/bookinfo.asp?id=1816

  • Fake News or Fact?
    The "Salle Mauresque" (Moorish Room, so-called because of the style of decoration used). In this room Charles Deville Wells broke the bank several times.
    One of the gaming halls at the Monte Carlo casino.

    On 18 August 1913, players at the casino in Monte Carlo were astonished when the ball landed on black no fewer than 26 times in succession.  Believing that this run could not last, many punters had convinced themselves that red must come up next.  They lost their money.  Others reasoned that as black had been lucky so many times it would continue that way.  They, too, lost when the series finally ended.

    The story appears on numerous websites, and for many years it has been included in books on gambling and the laws of chance.  But is it true?

    I was determined to find out more, and to discover who had been the winners and losers.  So I searched a number of sources including the Times Digital Archive, The British Newspaper Archive and Google Books.  Surprisingly, I was unable to find any contemporary account of this event from August 1913 – or indeed any mention of it whatsoever until many years after.  Having trawled through numerous articles and books I located what I believe to be the first published account of it – in a book published as late as 1959.  This work is entitled ‘How to Take a Chance – a light hearted introduction to the laws of probability’ and was written by Darrell Huff.  (Note the phrase ‘light hearted’).  The author of this volume presumably invented the story just by way of example and now it appears in reputable publications as though it were an established fact.

    But if it had really taken place, what would have happened if a gambler had bet on black starting with a stake of £1, and then left their winnings to accumulate on the same colour for 26 spins of the wheel?  A quick calculation shows that in theory they would have finished up with over £50 million!  This would have been something of an inconvenience to the casino, to put it mildly.  To prevent any player from winning sums of this magnitude, the casino’s rules at that time limited the maximum stake to about £250, a measure which would have reduced the total win to about £9,000 – still a good return on an initial investment of £1 !

    By the way – if you know of any source for this tale which pre-dates Darrell Huff’s 1959 book, I’d be delighted to hear all about it.  info@robin-quinn.co.uk

     

  • Maps as research tools

    In 1910 the British government decided to carry out a detailed survey and valuation of every building in the country.  It was an enormous task and involved hundreds of surveyors up and down the land.  The records of the survey can be inspected at the National Archives, which means that they are available to researchers, historians and anyone wishing to find out more about the places where their ancestors lived more than a century ago.

    I used these records to find out more about the large business premises occupied by Charles Wells (the man who broke the bank)  at 152-156 Great Portland Street, London.

    Each building or plot of land was assigned a reference number, and these were marked on a large-scale map. It is necessary to find the district and reference number before locating the detailed survey of any individual property.
    Each building or plot of land was assigned a reference number, and these were marked on a large-scale map. It is necessary to consult these maps first in order to find the district and reference number, before locating the detailed survey of any individual property.  (Crown copyright).

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The individual entries contain written information about occupiers of buildings; value; rent paid and many other details of interest to historians. In some cases, such as this one, the surveyor has included a sketch plan of the building. Since it was possible to establish that the building was largely unchanged since Wells occupied it twenty years earlier, this helped me to put together a written description of the business premises and living accommodation he occupied in the 1890s.
    The individual entries contain written information about occupiers of buildings; value; rent paid and many other details of interest to historians. In some cases, such as this one, the surveyor has included a sketch plan of the building. Since it was possible to establish that the building was largely unchanged since Wells had occupied it twenty years earlier, in the 1890s, this helped me to put together an accurate written description of the business premises and living accommodation when he was based there. (Crown copyright)

     

    The building in which Charles Wells had his offices and workshops had been converted into a car showroom by about 1912. It was subsequently demolished. Yalding house (pictured) stands on the site of Wells' HQ and adjoining properties. (McAleer & Rushe)
    The building in which Charles Wells had his offices and workshops had been converted into a car showroom by about 1912. It was subsequently demolished. Yalding house (pictured) was built on the site of Wells’ HQ and adjoining properties. For many years Yalding House was occupied by the BBC, and the studios of Radio 1 were there between 1996 and 2012.  (McAleer & Rushe)